NFL Ref Betting Guide: How Referee Assignments Impact Chiefs-Ravens and Lions-49ers

November 13, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; NFL referee Shawn Smith (14) during the first
November 13, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; NFL referee Shawn Smith (14) during the first / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There are so many betting trends in the NFL you could offset one with another in nanoseconds. Yet when it comes to referee assignments, betting trends often hold up because human subjectivity tends to remain static.

So here we are, breaking down the NFL ref assignments for the AFC and NFC Championship games featuring Chiefs at Ravens and Lions at 49ers, respectively, this Sunday.

Don't take any of this information in a vacuum and assume it will hold when making a bet. But it's critical to understand ref tendencies before betting because, as I said, they tend to be creatures of habit.

Below is a breakdown of each ref and how they may impact their respective game. We also have our weather report, betting previews, and props bets for each game on our NFL homepage, which you can access here.

Ref for Chiefs at Ravens AFC Championship - Shawn Smith

Chiefs fans must have loved seeing Shawn Smith's name as the ref for this game because he's reputation as an away team's best friend.

This season, Smith's team called 924 yards in penalties on home teams against only 709 yards in penalties against road teams.

That's a big reason why home teams have won 40.8% of the games over the last three years Smith has called, which is the lowest rate of home team wins of any ref in the NFL.

In that same period, home teams have won 55.4% of games overall in the NFL. It doesn't take a mathematician to calculate how massive a swing that is.

Equally important to note, home teams went 17-29-3 against the spread in games Smith called.

While all of these trends favor the Chiefs, NFL betting expert Iain MacMillan is backing the Ravens at -3.5 ATS (note: this line has changed to -4 since MacMillan bet it). He's focused more on the Ravens' strong rushing attack and the Chiefs' porous rushing defense as the main reasons he thinks the Ravens will pull this out.

Ref for Lions at 49ers NFC Championship - Clete Blakeman

Lions fans have a long history with Clete Blakeman, and it isn't a good one.

Since 2019, the Lions have gone 1-5 in games called by Blakeman. The most infamous of those losses came in 2019 when two bad calls against the Lions and one missed call for them cost them a win against Green Bay.

Even worse, the 49ers are 4-0 in games called by Blakeman since 2019 and home teams went 10-6 straight up in games called by Blakeman this season. He tends to call an even game (both home and away teams get called for just over 5 penalties per game), but these trends certainly favor the home side.

MacMillan is also backing the home team in this one, taking the 49ers at -7. As was the case with the Ravens, he got this line earlier in the week before it moved up to -7.5. Still, MacMillan believes the 49ers offense (best in the NFL in Net Yards Per Play) will have its way against a Lions defense that has given up 7.7 yards per play against the Rams and 6.8 YPP against the Bucs.

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Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.